The announcement that a new UKIP candidate is a lecturer at Kingston University, one of the country’s most ethnically diverse universities, has been met with a surprisingly calm response from students.
Dr Nicholas Wood, principal lecturer of chemistry and pharmacology, will stand in Surrey’s Esher and Walton constituency for UKIP in this year’s general election, a party whose restrictive immigration policies sharply contrast the international nature of the university.
Last year Kingston was described as one of the UK’s most ethnically mixed student populations, with more than 150 countries represented in the student body.
In contrast the party website for UKIP describes itself as ‘unashamedly patriotic’ and promises to ‘regain control of our borders and immigration’ if it comes to power.
“I thought it was a bit shocking because Kingston has such diversity in its student body and a lot of international students,” said Jamie Wheeler-Roberts, the university’s Amnesty International society.
The politics and international relations student said: “But I think everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and part of tolerating everybody is accepting people like UKIP.”
Fellow Amnesty International committee member Eva Knoepfel, 22, agreed and dismissed calls for the lecturer to resign.
She said: “I don’t think it’s such a big deal to be honest, I mean UKIP’s a legal party.
“Kingston is so diverse but this diversity should include extreme right-leaning views because it also includes extreme left-leaning views.”
She joked: “It could be worse. He could be BNP!”
Representatives of the university refused to condemn the lecturer’s decision and asserted the importance of free speech at the university – within reason.
A spokesperson said: “The right to express individual views is encouraged by the university but it does not tolerate behaviour from any member of the university community that might be construed as incitement to any form of discrimination, harassment or hatred.”
Denza Gonsalves, head of Kingston University’s student union, echoed these sentiments.
She said: “Staff members of the university, like any member of the public, have the right to express their views within a democratic society.
“Students living in Esher, just like those living in Kingston and Surbiton or elsewhere – will want to know what he, and all other candidates, have to say on the big issues impacting their lives.”
While representatives of the university remain balanced about their views on Dr Wood’s political leaning the man himself will be pushed to show just how strongly he feels about the party in the upcoming months.
The vast majority of UKIP candidates are self-funded and therefore receive no help from central office and running in the election is an expensive outlay.
A deposit fee of £500 must be paid to register in addition to the thousands of pounds it costs to run the campaign, hire an election agent and staff to rally support.
An independent candidate without any financial help therefore takes a huge risk in losing money if they do not win.
Dr Wood stood in the May 2014 council elections as a councillor for Cobham and Downside ward but lost out to Conservative candidates.
The general election will take place on May 7.
Image courtesy of Google, with thanks